election 2012 content marketingSince Tuesday’s election, many marketing bloggers have commented on the role social media played in the presidential election. Certainly, it was a pervasive element. However, I think they might be somewhat missing, which is: The tools mean nothing if there’s not good content to share. Content Marketing has not been getting its due in the post-election analysis. Political campaigns, like any marketing endeavor, are best driven by high-quality, relevant content that speaks to pain points. In this election, the campaigns showed us just how flexible content strategies are.

Here are 5 lessons to be learned for content marketing from the 2012 presidential campaign.

1) Branding is very effective for defining competitors

Both campaigns worked hard to define the other candidate as incompetent and irresponsible, and part of the way they did this was not just by branding their own campaign, but by defining the other campaign as the wrong choice. After Obama’s widely successful 2008 brand, “Change,” this election was about making the Romney-Ryan ticket look like “the Go-Back Team.”

2) Social media can spread your content more effectively

Obama and Romney spread their content widely on social media, and people definitely responded. At various points, social media helped each candidate to characterize the other as incompetent. For instance, election memes went viral on Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, and Facebook, whether it was Romney’s “binder full of women” comment or Obama’s now-infamous, unenthusiastic demeanor during the first campaign. Although memes like these are generated much more quickly in presidential elections, marketers can easily find ways to draw on social media for content trends.

3) Using characterizations to package a message without details

The candidates’ efforts to characterize each other built as the campaign went on. By the end, both candidates were throwing around titles to see which ones would stick. Many times, characterizations, such as Obama’s depiction of Romney with “horses and bayonets,” allow a packaged message without weighing readers down with the details. Infographics have become a really common strategy for implementing this idea—but Obama and Romney did a lot of that with good PR.

4) Content doesn’t need a lot of weight for it to be interesting

One of the criticisms of both campaigns was that neither offered a lot of real solutions. Although this might be a frustrating idea to the average voter, marketers might view this as a point for creative content creation. The candidates didn’t spend a lot of time talking about their field of expertise—policy. Instead, their content is based on other more lateral topics like learning about the candidates’ “values,” “vision,” and “personal strengths.” For marketers, this can be key. Many times, expert advice is not always as valuable to prospective leads as what your company is all about.

5) Choosing how and when to use content is key

This one may have really made a difference in the campaign. Obama really understood how to use e-mail to his advantage. Nearly everyday in October, OFA leads would get a short email written by a different leader or political surrogate in Obama’s campaign, and at the end there would be a CTA for fundraising—nothing else. The Obama campaign used this letter-based e-mailed content only for fundraising, which made it much more effective. Many marketers still don’t devote the right kind of content to the right component of their overall effort. By strategically identifying which message goes with which pieces of content, you can really raise the overall effectiveness of a marketing campaign.

Presidential politics aside, a strong content strategy is key to a successful content marketing campaign. Take a peek at our free content tip sheet to discover top-notch ways to keep your blog stocked with lead-attracting content.